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Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Let's Learn about Wolves!

Gray Wolves were taken off the Endangered Species List

How do you feel about Gray Wolves? What do you know about wolves in general? In the Wolf Unit Study you can learn about the anatomy of these fascinating canines, where they live, their distinctive features and how they raise their young as well as the ways that wolves are being protected from extinction.

Each of these hands-on learning activities will help your children gain a better appreciation for wolves while learning to read, write, and observe. We will be learning math and science related to the wolf theme as well as the history and folklore associated with wolves. History has not been kind to wolves and their near extinction testifies to that.

What can we do to save the Big Bad Wolf from extinction?

Gray Wolf Territory

Wolf Distribution Map

Wolf Distribution Map

Compare Wolf Territory over time

Wolves were once abundant over much of North America and Eurasia but now inhabit a very small portion of their former range because of widespread destruction of its habitat, human encroachment of their habitat, and the resulting human-wolf encounters that sparked attempts at total extermination.

The gray wolf is, however, very adaptable. Gray wolves reproduce and expand in areas where allowed and are regarded as being of least concern for extinction.

Today, wolves are protected in some areas, hunted for sport in others, or may be subject to extermination as perceived threats to livestock and pets in other areas.

Wolf Themed Bulletin Board - Word Wall with a Wolf Theme

Wolf Bulletin Board

Wolf Bulletin Board

Creating a Word Wall for the Wolf Unit Study

Today we will begin our unit study on wolves by talking about the relationship between each of the members of the family in a wolf pack. While discussing, begin to list words that the children might need to spell when writing about the wolf pack. Words on this Word Wall might include:

male, female, wolf, pack, wolf pack, pup, canine

Write each of these words with white chalk on black construction paper cut in the shape of a wolf. (Spraying with hairspray will fix the chalk.) Mount these words on a bulletin board with a snowy open field scene as a background. By attaching the wolf shaped word cards with black push pins the children can take them to their desks when they need to spell a word and then reattach them later. Be sure to keep a supply of paper wolves handy for adding more wolf related words as you discover them.

The Wolf Unit Study - Let's learn about wolves!

Next I lead the children over to the reading nook which has been converted from a Lemming's , River Otter's, Woodchuck's, Frog's Den or Bird Blind depending on the unit we studied before. The children discover that the den now has a stack of books about wolves. I also include a pack of stuffed wolves for cuddling with while reading. I tell the children that our wolf pack loves to have stories read to them and that during silent reading time they will be able to read to one of the wolves.

A Unit Study to Accompany Look to the North: A Wolf Pup Diary by George, Jean Craighead

Look to the North: A Wolf Pup Diary

Look to the North: A Wolf Pup Diary

A Year in the Life of a Wolf Pup

Let's take a trip to the far north where we will follow three new wolf pups. From the den they were born in we see the three wolf pups as they begin to grow and begin to explore the wider world. Notice how the passing time is expressed in number of weeks at the top left as you turn each page. There are also sentences written in italics that tell what might be happening at that time in the world of the reader with a small picture illustrating it on the opposite side.The large central picture and text show us how the wolf pups are progressing.

Compare Fact wolves Fiction

Venn Graph of Wolves

Venn Graph of Wolves

Wolves and Venn Graphs

Comparing Wolf Information

When we finish we talk about the difference between fiction and non-fiction and make a Venn Graph to describe the similarities and differences between the wolves as they are portrayed in different stories.

Which stories of wolves are fiction and which are non-fiction?

Ask the children to show the point in the book that they are talking about in order to help them learn to check their facts. Post-it notes are perfect for keeping track of where they found the information without having to write in the book.

Scroll to Continue

As you reread the story on other days, children may find other similarities and differences to be added to the Wolf Venn Graph.

The Big Bad Wolf at the Beach

Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf

Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf

Some of the best and most unique stories about wolves can be found on blogging sites.

The Wolf Pup Den - Baby Wolves

Wolf Pups

Wolf Pups

Photo Credit: Inside the Wolf Den by goldberg, Used under creative commons

Photo Credit: Wolf Pups by USFWS Headquarters, Used under creative commons

Wolf Pups in the Den - During April, wolves have litters of six to ten pups.

After you have read about how wolf cubs are born, invite children to act out the life of wolf cubs. You might use the Milk Carton Igloo reading nook from the Lemmings Unit Study or the space under your Reading Loft as your wolf den.

My children love to snuggle together in the den to read wolf stories. Christmas lights or a flashlight work well for reading lamps.

Indepth Look at Wolves

  • Wolf Country, wolf pups and the pack
    Wolf Pups are born completely blind and deaf, the pups depend on the their mother and other members of the pack.
  • Ecosystems of the Michigan Upper Peninsula: Gray Wolf
    The gray wolf, also known as the timber wolf, looks a bit like a shaggy German Shepherd. They usually have a bushy tail and pointy ears. Their fur can range from white to gray-brown to black. They can weigh between 50 and 100 pounds, but average abou
  • Inside the Wolf Den By Kristen Romanoff
    Wriggling into the wolves' underground den, I could make out several squirming wolf puppies curled up on top of one another. Outside, the pack's howling and barking was escalating. Coming face to ...

Measure with a Wolf

Use the overhead projector to blow up a picture of a wolf to life size. Draw around the outline of the wolf on a large piece of paper or cardboard. You may wish to make two or more cutouts to use them for measuring distances in Wolf Units. Laminating the wolf cut outs will make them last longer.

Measuring in non-standard units is one of the skills listed on most state standards.

Wolves in the Reading Nook

Stuffed animals help to bring the Wolf Unit to life.

We use these wolves for cuddling with when reading, for acting out stories, and for manipulatives when trying to understand difficult math problems.

Math problems such as: 3 wolves are in the den. 3 more wolves come back home. How many are in the den now?

You might ask your parents to run a fund raiser to get your stuffed wolf collection going. We have a pack of 6 Cuddlekins Wolves in our wolves' den. Each year I try to add to my collection of stuffed animals.

The Gray Wolf Theater - Wolves in the Movies

Set up a computer with videos of wolves and call it the Gray Wolf Theater. Have a list of things for the children to look for as they watch or have paper and crayons ready for the children to react to the video when they finish watching.

Winter Wolves

On chart paper list advantages and challenges for wolves in a snowy winter climate. How does the snow help or hurt? What animals are available to the wolves in winter?

Next go out in the snow and play a version of Tag where wolves are trying to catch rabbits or mice. Play this game in a field or woods with fresh fallen snow.

Finally come back to the chart and revise your chart.

Use the information you have written when writing about wolves in winter.

Wolves are Predators

Wolves are Top Predators

As top predators, wolves play an important role in an ecosystem. Wolves can be found in temperate forests, deserts, mountains, tundra, taiga and grasslands. Because they are highly adaptable, wolves have thrived. Notice in the above diagram that wolves help keep populations of fish, amphibians, birds and mammals in check.

This link will take you to a . These words can be used to create a word search, crossword puzzle or to help label a wold habitat bulletin board.

My children loved reading the book Gray Wolf by Jack London in order to imagine what it is like to be a wolf. Our favorite passage reads:

Gray Wolf hunts on a moonlit winter night until suddenly his senses alert him to the presence of a strange pack. White Wolf steps out, the two animals meet, circling each other, leaving together, and eventually become the leaders of a new pack.

Wolf Pack

Wolves Work Together

Wolves Work Together

Preditor Prey Relationship between Wolves and Moose on Isle Royale

  • The Moose/Wolf Dynamic -
    A prey and predator relationship on Isle Royale For six decades since they loped across frozen Lake Superior to reach this rocky island, wolves have roamed 45-mile-long Isle Royale, the nation's least-visited national park.
  • SmithLifeScience
    As the population of one species changes, the population of another species that depends on the first species for survival may change as well. Use the graph below to answer questions #15-19. 15. How did the Isle Royale wolf population change between
  • Wolf-Moose Drama, Wolves Recover from Disaster
    Tuesday,March 19, 1996 This winter was long, tough and tumultuous on Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, scene of the worldís best studied predator-prey relationship, and the news is what wolf watchers were hoping to hear. A troubled wolf po

Wolfpack Population Game - Wolf Population Fluxuation Activity

A pack of wolves (K-4) stands in a circle with optional dress-up of fake-fur tails and fuzzy ears. Half the kids are sitting to show population balance. Kids sitting down from the beginning are wolf pups ready to be born. The teacher reads the shuffled cards and begins to call out the scenarios.

If it is a decreasing scenario, one wolf sits. If the wolf population increases, a wolf stands up. This continues until either the entire wolfpack dies and the wolf population is doomed, the wolf population sky-rockets until no-one else can stand up, or whoever calls out scenarios runs out of cards. You may choose only to use the scenarios shown in the site below or create your own.

Wolf Ears

  • Geoguide @
    Objectives: Students will identify ways in which human and natural forces alter the physical environment and discuss, write about, and illustrate examples of these changes in the environment and their effects on the life of a wolf.
  • Theatre Makeup and Supplies - Products - Costume Accessories - Hats - Animal Hats
    If you are looking for Theatrical Makeup, Costume Wigs, Hats, Masks or Costume Accessories, you have come to the right place. We have been in the costume Business for over sixty years. We offer great selection, fair pricing as well as discounts to Th
  • Adorable Foxie
    Carissa has makes animal costumes including the Wolf Ears and Tail above. Adorable Foxie Cartoons & Costumes by Carissa St. Clair

Compare Wolves to Coyotes

Wolves and Coyotes

Wolves and Coyotes

Wolf Anatomy - Comparing Wolves and Dogs

By studying these charts you can learn about the various systems of a wolf's body. Compare the muscles of the wolf to the circulatory system.

Comparing Wolves and Coyotes

wolf coyote info

wolf coyote info

  • Wolf Anatomy at Animal Corner
    Wolves move their ears from side to side to determine where a sound is coming from. Discover this and other exciting facts about wolf anatomy including the differences between dogs and wolves.

Gray wolves share a common ancestry with domestic dogs. - Writing About Wolves

Jan Brett tells a wonderfully imaginative tales of a cave boy taming the first dog. This is a great introduction to understanding the concept that wolves share a common ancestry with domestic dogs.

Wolves around the World

Canine Family Tree

Keeping Notes

Writing about Wolves

After reading this story we write a class predictable book with alternating pages:

A wolf is wild.

A dog is tame.

A wolf kills for it's food.

A dog is given dog food.


The children choose a page to illustrate. The pages are put in a three ring notebook. Anyone can add more pages later during Writer's Workshop. The book is then put in the classroom library and children are allowed to take it home to read to their families.

The First Dog - Dogs are descended from Wolves


Wolf Math

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is also known as the timber wolf or wolf. They measure 26-36 inches high and weigh 70-150 pounds.

To understand these numbers we use an overhead projector to blow up an outline drawing of a wolf to the measurements given. We then trace around the outline on poster board and cut out two wolves. We use these wolf cut outs to measure distances in wolf units.

To understand the weight we fill a gunnysack with 70 pounds of beans add ears and a mouth and let the wolf hang out near the rug as a pillow for silent reading time.

Wolf Playing Pieces - Wolf Manipulatives

Vintage wolf salt and pepper shakers are wonderful to use as playing pieces when you are learning about wolves. Replace the playing pieces in the board games you know and love or make up new games.

We like to play Go to the Head of the Class with wolves for markers. We make up our own questions from the information we learn about wolves and keep adding to them throughout the unit.Several years worth of wolf questions and this games is starting to look like Trivial Pursuit

Wolf Lessons - What does a Wolf's Posture Mean?

Learn about the meaning of Wolf Postures. You might make cutout of wolves with separate legs, head and ears that are attached with paper fasteners.

Use to demonstrate wolf postures. These wolf puppets could be used in the Wolf Theater so that the children could make their wolves imitate the wolves in the video or to put on puppet shows.

The following books will have great ideas for 4th - 6th grade classrooms.

Non-Fiction Wolf Books

When we have questions about wolves I show the children how to look up the answers. Non-Fiction books are harder to read to a group than fiction so I find that it is often easier to have grandparents come in at Silent Reading time to read with the children. The children benefit from the individual attention and the grandparents get another chance to connect with the children.

Gray Wolf Literacy Bag

Homework for this Wolf Unit Study

Homework for this Wolf Unit Study

Word Wall Wolves - Wolves on the Word Wall

Wolf Verbs















What other verbs can you think of that are associate with wolves?

I make many kinds of Word Walls with the children as we learn about each new unit. It is important to saturate the classroom with words when children are learning to read. I have a 3 poster sized picture frames with Plexiglas replacing the glass in the bathroom. I use one for artwork the children make. I use one for word lists such as wolf verbs. The third might be a map, a famous painting or a graph related to wolves. The poster of wolves below is a great hit with the children.